Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
After reading Donna’s newest book on the 10 Red Flags of spotting psychopaths, I got to thinking that there are Red Flags in our own lives that we should also take notice of and avoid.
When we first start the “journey toward healing,” and I do think it is a journey, not a destination, we have to learn the things about ourselves that we need to change in order to live a healthy life, one free of psychopaths and other abusers. Our journey started out in learning the behavior of the psychopaths and abusers so we could spot these people who will not change their bad behavior, but it ends up being learning about ourselves, and how our own behavior contributed to the psychopath’s ability to continue to abuse us.
The Red Flags we can see in people who are not healthy, who are not going to “play nice,” are absolutely necessary to building a new life. (Thank you Donna for your newest book!) But we also need to learn the Red Flags of dysfunctional behavior in ourselves.
The new rules
If we want to become healthy, here are rules that I think we need to make for ourselves.
1. I will not continue to have contact with people who are abusive.
I will maintain NO CONTACT with people who have been abusive to me and do not show any remorse for this behavior. (The exception to this is if I am required by law to co-parent or otherwise maintain minimal contact.)
2. I will not behave in dishonest ways.
I will live an honest life in all ways, dealing with others as I would that they would deal with me. I will maintain the “do right” rule. If it is not “right” I will not do it.
3. I will not live in fantasy.
I will not live in the FANTASY of thinking I can control situations or other people that are out of my control. I will “let go and let God/the Universe” run the universe. I will not live in the fantasy of thinking that if I just try harder I can “fix” anything.
4. I will not be irresponsible.
I will assume responsibility for myself and those things that are my responsibility. I will support myself and my children financially and emotionally, doing healthy things and taking care of those things that are my responsibility. These may include stopping some bad habits such as alcohol and other substances, even too much or too little food or exercise.
5. I will not enable/rescue others.
This means that I will not assume responsibility for the things that others should be responsible for, even if they think I should be responsible for supporting them, or doing for them what they should and can do for themselves. The only “legitimate” rescue is to drag an unconscious person from a burning building.
6. I will not persecute others.
I will not punish others for not doing what I think is what they should do, or for living their lives in a way that brings problems upon themselves.
7. I will not be a volunteer victim.
I will not engage myself in behaviors or with dishonest or irresponsible people that will cause me to be victimized.
I will recognize that in the past I have done things that caused me to be vulnerable to being victimized by others. Because I continued to allow others to abuse me (whatever my excuses were), I know now that I must take responsibility for myself. Now that I KNOW better I must DO better.
Changing our own behavior
When I find myself “back sliding” and in a situation that is causing me distress, I must say to myself “STOP,” and then see what it is that is causing this distress in my feelings and in my life. Then I must take corrective action in the situation and change my own behavior to stop the distress.
Problems come up in our lives every day that we must solve, but if we do the best we can to live our lives honestly and responsibly, taking responsibility for those things that are our responsibility, the problems are pretty well minimized and there is little or no drama in our lives.
There may be someone in our lives that we can’t avoid, a co-worker or a neighbor who is hateful or problematic, but we can control our reaction to their behavior even though we can’t control them. We may even have to find another job, or accept that the one we have is not an ideal one, but we can tolerate it by changing our own attitude.
Life won’t always be a bowl of cherries; there will be problems. But as long as we live by the “do right” rule, and do what we know is the right way to live, the majority of the drama will be out of our lives. We will be less stressed out realizing that we are only in control of our own selves.